Police rarely ask social media platforms to remove hate messages

Last year the Federal Police Service asked the social media platforms such Twitter and Facebook and the search engine Google to remove messages that express or incite racial or other forms of hatred.  More recently just one crime report was drafted after the terrorist attacks in Christchurch, New Zealand, despite a flood of racist comment having been unleashed online in the wake of the attacks.  

The figures appear in an article in Saturday’s edition of the daily ‘Het Laatste Nieuws’. 

The Federal Police department that is responsible for getting hate messages removed from the internet, The Internet Referral Unit, looked at 922 cases of alleged online hatred. However, action was taken in just 23 of these.   

A police spokesperson told the paper that “If we find some inappropriate on the internet with a link to Belgium we try and identify the persons that is behind the profile. A crime report is drafted and we ask the platform to remove the inappropriate content”. Only repeat offenders are prosecuted.

In a reaction on the social media platform Twitter the Justice Minister Koen Geens (Flemish Christian democrat) said that The Internet Referral Unit also acts when it is sent crime reports from other police departments. Mr Geens added that the issue of hate messages will be on the agenda at a meeting of EU Justice Ministers on Monday.    

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